: Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 9th year!
I arrived a bit early and would-up baby-sitting the reserved table for about 30 minutes. This gave me a chance to do my usual survey of the surroundings. Joe’s pub is a really nice place to see live music; intimate, but not tiny and very hip atmosphere. I did notice that about every seven minutes, the 4/5/6 subway runs right below the venue and not only can you feel it, but little waves formulate in your drink. I couldn’t quite figure out if the sound of the subway was an “A” or “G”… but I think it was around there. (Yes, I actually try to figure out what notes things are… it’s a personality quirk. I’m not particularly good at it, but I struggle to not do it most of the time.)
It was about now that I really noticed how cold it was in the venue. As it was incredibly hot out all day, this was welcome and refreshing.
My friend showed up with his wife and we had a chance to meet in person and talk a bit before the show started. It went great and it was a real pleasure to finally put the face to the name. He and his wife are big fans of all things guitar, so the conversation took off like a Saturn V rocket.
Out of the blue, there was a surreal loop of music that seemed to come from everywhere. The refreshing cold was starting to feel less refreshing and I found myself counting my goose-bumps, but it was kind of an interesting background to the loop...kind of like visiting Santa's Shop at the North Pole, while peaking on acid. Finally, Adrian Belew walked out to a warm and generous applause. He immediately kicked into a riff and within seconds had sampled it, looped it, built some more complimentary riffs on top if it, and then was singing the melody.
At first I thought to myself: “Well, this is pretty much what I expected: loops, layers of loops, and then melodies on tops of the loops… I mean what else can one guitarist do for two hours….?” But as he moved into the second and third songs, Adrian wove a tapestry of rhythms and sounds that was quite interesting. After about five or six songs, he had a Q&A session. It was pretty cool to see die-hard fans so excited as they were able to ask him about things they were interested in. There were questions about his audition with Zappa’s band (his answer included a great story about a five year old Dweezil giving him the finger as he rode around on his tricycle), King Crimson, Bowie, Fripp… all good stuff and he was very gracious about answering a few zany questions.
The waitress asked me if I wanted another Coke. I said “Sure, but no ice this time please…. man is it cold in here…” She brought me my Coke, but could offer no remedy for the cold.
Back to the music, and there was plenty of it. He was using the Adrian Belew Signature Fly and it was impressive. At one point there seemed to be two tunings in use at the same time. I’m usually pretty good at deciphering this kinda stuff, but I must admit, I couldn’t quite figure out how he did it. My only guess is that he was able to route the output of each string individually and use pitch shifting to create a custom tuning scheme, while blending in standard tuning.
Now I am starting to shiver: “… man, it’s friggin’ cold in here!”
One of the last songs was a piece that was building very nicely; he had created some layered loops and was doing this east-Indian-flavored solo that was just awesome. Right at the climax point of his solo, there was a series of sub-sonic tones that was so low; it felt like it was coming from under the building. I It was as if three accompanists had hit their low “B” strings on their five-string-basses at the same time… I could not figure out how he could make a sound that low.
“..holy Crap!” I thought to myself “….that’s the subway!..”
It was such perfect timing…. a random accompaniment from a NYC subway train that was totally a part of the music (I still can’t figure out if it was a fourth or a fifth below what he was doing, but it was in tune with the song). It was the first time in the whole night that I completely forgot that I was freezing cold…. While being totally random, it was one of those moments when you really get what an artist is shooting for. I was smelling the spores, drinking the cool-aid and a renewed fan for sure.
Summary: I first saw Adrian Belew in college in 1983 in a park filled with about college 3,000 students. It was very (very) hot out that day. I remember well because he spent a lot of time tuning between songs and commented on it often, saying that the heat was a “bit of a problem”. It’s funny how 27 years later, in a freezing cold room, the temperature was no problem. Of course, a big reason for that is the very well made guitar that he was using this evening vs. the guitar he used back then. I don’t remember too much else about that first Adrian Belew show as I was, uh… well, in a very “Celebratory” state that day. It was a much different experience last week at Joe’s pub. I was more tuned in to every subtlety of what he was doing. What made it so much fun is that at times, I could not keep up; both rhythmically and harmonically, he was wondering into some pretty odd parts of town that in moments, were over my head, even when I quietly tried to tap the quarter note on my leg… a few times, I lost the beat.
A nice icing on the cake was that my friend and his wife knew Adrian quite well. I went back stage with them as they wanted to say hello. It was great to see what an incredibly nice, humble and down-to-earth guy he was. They made plans to meet up later and off we went to have some drinks. It had been a long day for me and had to get some sleep, so I was not able to join my friends as they meet up with Adrian. It would have been interesting to meet him personally and have the chance to talk shop. But as they headed off to join him, I had to say goodbye, and wandered out into the night, going over in my mind, the many moments in the show that I had really enjoyed.
Ironically, as I walked along 8th street towards Broadway and then 6th avenue, I had to laugh out loud: I was so happy to be back in the sweltering New York City heat!
Have a great week,
One night after the show, the lead vocalist persuaded me to go out and see a band that he had met earlier that day on the strip. Off we went. I can’t remember which casino it was; they are all so unique and exploding with character. At some point we entered a lounge where five or six guys and two girls were up on stage ripping through a medley of pop funk hits for some dancing gamblers. So I ordered a drink, grabbed a bowl full of pretzels (or peanuts) and proceeded to settle in for the remainder of their set.
The guy I was with was super charismatic, so within minutes he was dancing with most of the good looking women in the room. I of course was busy analyzing the sound system, what kind of pedal board the guitarist was using (Roland GT5), the vibe between the band members (bassist and backup singer were definitely sleeping together and mad at each other), guessing the chords / key signatures of each song, and so forth. This is my sad idea of fun.
As I was dissecting the environment, I was starting to get this really weird taste in my mouth; kind of like when you chew aspirin. I knew I was not going to get sick, but something was not right. I began fiddling with my drink more and more, subconsciously squirming in my seat. This continued for some time and I finally realized that it was actually the sound that was throwing me off. Everything looked ok, but something just felt out of place.
And then it hit me. These guys were going 100% direct.
Ugghhhh… I did a quick re-review and realized that my initial analysis was very sloppy. No amps, and the drummer was using an electronic kit. The more I listened, the more everything I saw made perfect sense. I felt like I was in a space station. The volume was so perfectly perfect…. It was neither loud nor soft, it was just kind of “there,” not really emanating form any one spot.
During the break, I chatted up the guitarist and found out that when they arrived in town, they had to sign a contract stating that if they deviated from a specific decibel level in the slightest, they’d be fired and forfeit their pay. He was bummed about it, but their residency was for three months, so they were thrilled to have the work.
Fast forward about three years and I find myself on stage in a tiny little club in central Europe. I was doing a three month residency, 5 sets of Funk / Rock Blues each night, 6 nights a week. What a haul. But most nights, the place was packed; everyone dancing their brains out, the air was smoky as hell, and the walls just dripping in sweat. I wound up playing there a bunch of times, usually doing a one-month stay and it was always a lot of fun. The nightly cleaning crew always ignored the stage, so at the end of each one-month run, we’d spend a portion of our last night drunkenly clearing our gear out for the next band that was due to arrive in the morning.
It was always funny to see the crap that had built up over the last 28 nights; broken glass, lost passports, false teeth, hypodermic needles, all kinds of wonderful stuff. For me, that pile of crap that we swept into a bucket at 5AM was always an indication of how the residency had gone; the more weird crap we found, the better the gig usually had been. Each time I experienced this ritual, I always came to the same conclusion:
“The dirt, the muck, the filth… I love it”
This does not have so much to do with the actual dirt that had accumulated over the weeks, but the stuff that goes along with a live gig. Even when I have played some pretty nice places, there is always some conceptual sweating and philosophical smoke. The combustion in the sound, the drinks that fall over, etc… but most importantly, there is the sound of guitars (or keyboards) through an amplifier and drums. Anything less and… and I start to get that “chewing aspirin” taste in my mouth again.
Summary: I can’t fault those guys for taking that gig in the antiseptic Vegas lounge; everyone needs work, especially musicians. And in fairness, the gig I was doing that week was nothing too amazing at all, so I never meant to judge them... Not every gig is gonna be so great, sometimes you just gotta pay the bills. But I’m kinda glad that there are not too many places like Las Vegas. I think live music should not be hermetically sealed; there has to be some rough edges. I do understand that in certain situations, the manager of a club / lounge has to do whatever they need to do in order to keep the customers spending money.
I’ve had some pretty weird gigs in my life, but in most cases, there are at least a few sonic imperfections, which I think is just part of the formula. It’s the human element. I think this is why a faded pair of jeans that you have owned for 5 years cannot be replicated by “The GAP”, and why “Reliced” guitars are, well… uh, let’s just say they are not my cup of tea. Bumps and scratches are part of life, even in the sound we send out from the stage. Those frayed edges give the moments of brilliance / success / harmony relevance. Of course we all strive and hope for as much good stuff as possible in our performance, but as we aim for 100%, we know that if we hit 80%, we’ve probably had a pretty good night. The other 20% of the sound / performance / solo / stage banter, etc… that sometimes falls flat, falls on the floor, or gets peanut butter stuck in it, well… that’s just part of the deal.
I never really thought about all this even once, until that one time in the Vegas lounge when it was not there. Then I missed it, really bad.
Have a great week,
My Short answer is: "Because we don't know any better", and "Yes"
While there may be exceptions to this, many of us at one point in our early years became pretty fascinated with a guitarist. It starts with a friend "hipping" you to the record, you then borrowing the record for longer than you promised, you eventually having to buy (or steal) a copy for yourself, you wearing out the record (or tape, or CD, etc...), you obsessively dissecting their playing on the record... and then there is “the second album” and then the "Live in Japan" album, and the "Studio Out Takes Import", etc...
Stop: Some may say that they never did this. They picked up the guitar, took lessons, learned, and never once along the way, ever put another guitarist above themselves on the value scale. Some people are either lying to themselves or are in-fact truly unique and very talented. Both are completely possible. Now, let's forget about this 1/2 of the 1% of the population and get back to the rest of us.
When you are 12, or 16, it is likely that this guitar god is more experienced than you are. But I think a big reason why we are in such awe of these people is very simple:
You have to get up every morning, go to school, do things you hate, and listen to your parents. These folks in the posters do not.
So, really what is happening is that in tandem with the fact that they have been bending the cat-gut for a while and are capable of some wicked rockin’ they are also living a life you dream of. So you worship the package, the image, the concept. But that is ok because hopefully, you are worshiping someone who really makes great music, or at least motivates you to practice diligently. But what happens when you actually start to develop some real skills? Does the worship end? No, it morphs.
As I got to a point where I no longer had to get up, go to school or listen to my parents, I started to apply some scrutiny to my blind faith. I went through phases where I decided: “…Oh, Jimmy Rocker was never really that great… I mean, I know all his licks now, and what has he done lately…?” or “…man, when I was 16, their first album was the BOMB!.... but when I look back, they all sound wasted, and the songs are kinda hokey….. I guess I’m as good as Jimmy Rocker now….”
And then I would find an interesting article about Mr. Rocker and realized that unbeknownst to me, he did every solo on the first album in one take, or he played bass on the last four cuts because Gerry McSnide was in rehab that week and the label was pressuring them to master before the holidays, etc…..
So then I’m thinkin’ “…wow, Jimmie was one deep dude, I guess I never realized that there was more goin’ on in that band then just Marshall Stacks, $100 bills and mirrors….”
But then I find out 5 years later that they re-dubbed some of the solos on the “Live in Japan” album. I’m heartbroken. But then one day I actually meet Mr. Rocker on the corner of 8th Ave. and 50th Street in Manhattan, totally stumble through some speech about how I learned to play guitar because of him and he is insanely cool, friendly and easygoing. Now I go back and listen to “Live in Japan” again, and realize: It rocks. So what if a few of the solos were over-dubbed. Jimmy was super nice that day I met him, and I always liked their tunes anyhow.
Summary – This was all a bit tongue-in-cheek. Your “Jimmie Rocker” could have been Pat Metheny, Johnny Marr, Earl Klugh or some other legitimate axe-slinger. Point here is that I have found myself re-examining my idols as I’ve gotten older. Some I let go of many moons ago. Some I feel like I’ve grown up with and they have been kind of like the big brother who does not know me or give a crap about me. That’s ok. If I was Pete Townshend, I wouldn’t give a crap about Kevin Chisholm either.
But as I’ve grown as a person and (hopefully) a guitarist, I’ve come to understand my fascination with certain musicians, most of whom are a generation ahead of me. The ones who I still admire, I see with much more depth; they no longer exist on a piece of poster-grade paper on my wall, held in place with push-pins. They are people. They do stupid things, make great albums, marry super-models who take all of their money, inspire many young musicians, license their name out to crappy products, make incredible music that I really connect with, license their name out to pretty good products, and so on. I don’t really know how my journey through the world of guitar would have been without my heroes. They inspired and motivated me. Even though I realized as an adult that they are less than perfect, it is that complex imperfection that makes them even more inspiring. I now know how much patience and effort it takes to ride in a van for 12 hours to get to a gig or how important it is to hear a band mate out when they have an idea, even if you think their idea is retarded. I never knew or thought about this kinda stuff when I was 14. I just thought my idols walked around in their stage clothes all day and were best friends. Even though my personal experience involved a lot of self-discipline as well as trial-and-error, growing old with my guitar gods has also been an interesting experience that has provided me some useful perspective on the music business, and in a funny way, some of life’s ironies.
If everyone was a big rock star, then being a big rock star would not be such a special thing.
If everyone was a really cool person and just loved to play guitar as much as they could, I think that would work out pretty well.
Have a great week,
Don't know if you've covered these before, but I just came across this Sonic F Z7 guitar on a trip to Seattle this past week, and it's a really rad and unique guitar! I just love the body design and 2 tone wood. The P90/humbucker mix gave it a nice variety of tones, and the kill switch is fun to play with.Thanks for that, Tim. This isn't a brand that I was aware of. It's good to see contemporary instruments that do not adhere to the same old usual templates.
Well priced, too, at under $700.
Hello Again!Thanks Pelle for showing us this. Nice find! I'm afraid I don't know for definite what it is either, without throwing forward the names of the usual suspects of this era from Japan, namely Kawai and Teisco. The body does remind me of Seasick Steve's 3-stringed "trance wonder" - I believe that's a Japanese guitar too.
Last night I walked past the local pawn shop in town, and saw this beautiful guitar in the window. I called them up this morning and they basically wanted to throw it away, so I walked down there and purchased it for basically nothing. It was in terrible shape, but there is nothing a little tweaking, polishing and some steel wool won't fix! Now it plays great!
What caught my eye was the control plate, which you normally wouldnt see on an electric acoustic. I've also always had a thing for Bigsbys, and especially the (at least what I think it is) aluminium bigsby bridge!
Another interesting feature is the neck joint. It looks just like it would be a glue-in neck, with a long neck tenon and fretboard overhang, but it's got a neck plate with four screws.
The fret markers are usually on the 3, 5, 7, 9th and so on. But on this piece, I don't know if sombody at the factory screwed up, or maybe it's just a design twist, but there instead of the 9th fret, the marker is on the 10th. It does mess with your mind a little, and makes it a bit harder to play.
So why do I want to post this guitar on the Guitarz blog?
I really don't have any idea who made this guitar. The only clue is that on the back of the head it's stamped "Japan", which I would imagine it would be anyway. Does anybody know what year, or at least decade it is made? I know the Bigsby is an early Ibanez, but nothing else about it screams Ibanez. I'm sorry about the somewhat bad pictures, but my good camera is gone.
Thank you again Gavin and Bertram!
"Hello, I am a fan of African guitar music, and the video below is of one of the masters of the instrument in Africa, Albert Luampasi. Is it possible to you to identify the guitar that he is playing in this video at Youtube?Thank youHi Emerson, I really can't say what that guitar is. It looks 1960s Japanese to me, but could equally be a guitar of 1960s European origin given the pushbutton controls, whilst the headstock looks Silvertone/Danelecro.